Employment

Empowering Visionary Thinking in the PLH Community

By Laura Nott

Empowering Haitians to build a stronger Haiti. This is the PLH motto. But this is not just a catchy phrase or an abstract idea. This is the metric by which PLH operates. This month, I was proud to see the leaders of PLH put this into practice yet again by including our Haitian leaders in their strategic planning process. 


PLH is currently in the process of developing a 3-year strategic plan. Guesly Dessieux (CEO) and Sarah Comstock (Board Chair) asked me, as the in-country worker, to arrange a meeting with three of our Haitian staff to complete the first stage of the strategic planning process.


On Aug 17, Thonny Fabien (Haiti Operations Manager), Benedic Maxime (Camp Marie Operations Manager), Gerald Grecilien (English Instructor), and myself joined together to discuss the desired state of PLH — where we want to see the organization in 3 years. As instructed, we asked ourselves, “What is a 10?” In other words, what would it look like if PLH was functioning in a way that warranted a score of 10 out of 10? We considered programs, administration, organizational culture, infrastructure, financial management, etc. 

 
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Throughout the discussion, I continued to marvel at the passion, commitment, and pride of the three men that sat with me. They openly shared their ideas, dreams, and concerns. They listened and fed off each other and myself. They took their task seriously. Much of what they discussed was in regards to the culture of PLH: how we as an organization can blend Haitian culture and American standards and how we can perpetuate a Christ-like attitude within our own team as well as the larger community we are a part of. They discussed the end goals of spreading the gospel and empowering individuals to succeed. I appreciated how they didn’t only list the programs and facilities that they dreamed of having for the community but they also put thought into what a healthy organization looks like and what the true results of the work will be. 


As we reached the end of our 3-hour meeting, Benedic commented, “This is the longest I’ve ever spent speaking English.” I am so proud of this man and the leader and advocate he is for PLH and his community. As the operations manager for Camp Marie, he fields most of the questions and requests from the community, oversees projects and resolves issues, and PLH has high expectations on him, but he stands firm. None of us are perfect, but he is humble, level-headed, and rooted in Christ. 


In a few weeks, the stateside team will conduct their own strategic planning session asking themselves “What is a 10?” But the notes from the Haiti meeting will serve as a valued voice of the Haitian people. In the upcoming months, we plan to continue working through the next three steps of the process with the Haitian and stateside committees. 


This process has reiterated why it is that I believe in PLH and what they are doing. I am proud to work for an organization that values their staff and those they serve enough to give them a platform and truly hear what they have to say. And I am proud to work alongside American and Haitian employees that are passionate and comfortable enough to share their voice and work together to accomplish a shared goal. I am also humbled by the community of people in Oregon, Missouri, Kansas, and so many other places who support this work with their time, money, knowledge and passion. Together, we truly are empowering Haitians to build a stronger Haiti. 


PLH is strong. God has blessed this organization with experienced, humble leaders, with committed workers, and with passionate supporters. These three groups make up the PLH community. I consider myself blessed to be a part of it. I hope you do too.



Medical Mission: PLH and Corban Partner to Serve the Community of Camp Marie

Project Living Hope has a partnership with Corban University. We have taken several students with us on athletic trips, and every year for the past eight years, Guesly Dessieux, our president and Sarah Comstock, our Vice President, have helped lead a medical trip for Corban. This year we decided to bring the team to work with another local partner organization, Project Help Haiti, so that they could run a clinic in the town of Camp Marie, where PLH serves. Below you will find a reflection from Kate Vetter, one of the Corban students who participated on the trip, and the impact she saw that PLH is having in our community.

By Kate Vetter

As I stepped off the airplane hot, sticky air surrounded me, clinging to my skin and filling my lungs. I took off the flannel that had kept me warm on the much cooler plane and turned to a teammate, “It feels like we just walked into a giant sauna!” A broad smile spread across his face, “Kate, do you realize we’re in the airport? It’s air conditioned.”

My eyes grew wide with surprise. Just a bit later I discovered my teammate was right—it was much, much hotter outside! I had expected Haiti to be hot, yes, but having never visited the Caribbean I had no frame of reference for what humid heat would feel like. 

This May I went to Haiti with Corban University’s medical missions trip. Our team was comprised of a dozen students and about the same number of healthcare professionals including Dr. Guesly Dessieux. Our purpose? Running clinics in the communities surrounding Camp Marie, providing healthcare and medication for the people.

We prepared extensively for the trip, learning about healthcare issues in Haiti and approaches for nonprofit work in developing countries. Despite this, I had many interactions resembling the exchange I’d had with my teammate about the heat. Having never been in Haiti before, I had no idea what to expect, and nearly every facet of the country surprised me in some way. 

On one of our first days we went on a hike up a mountain. An avid hiker from Oregon, I was anticipating beautiful trees, and hoping for a good view. Both my expectations and hopes were far exceeded by our journey which snaked up the mountainside. 

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Sections of plantain trees, and looming breadfruit trees provided areas of shade from the hot sun, but when the trees were sparse, the views were stunning which more than made up for the heat. What surprised me about this hike was the consistent spread of homes which continued with our upward climb. We did not leave the villages behind at the foot of the mountain, rather, our so-called hike was really a walk on the roads many use for a regular commute.

Clinic days, similarly, brought many surprises. My heart was warmed by the multi-generational families who came in together, clearly invested in caring for one another. My favorite part of clinic, however, and one of the most pleasant surprises of the trip were the many employees from Project Living Hope who accompanied us. They did not come because they had been asked to accompany us, rather, they chose to. Their presence was an enormous help practically as they monitored the flow of patients, but also spoke volumes about their dedication to embodying servant leadership as a means of improving their own community and Haiti. 

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What surprised me most though, more than the heat, mountainside villages, and clinic days, was how obvious the relative magnitude of my opportunities, wealth, and privilege became. Because I was born in a country with public education through high school, generally plentiful jobs, and allowance of international travel, I have had opportunities galore.

Grappling with my circumstances given this trip to Haiti has transformed my view of the world in many ways. While dwelling on the magnitude of my own privilege, feeling guilty for my plenty or overwhelmed by how small I am is an easy trap to fall into, I have instead chosen to focus on what can be done. 

How will I use all that I have? My gifts and my talents, my money and my privilege—how will I use these things in a way that is honoring to the Lord, and communicates the love of God to those I meet?

While it is a small step, I am choosing to support Project Living Hope as a part of this newfound effort to use what I have. I consider myself lucky to have seen the firsthand impact they are having in a Haitian community, and I am thrilled to help support their efforts in any way I can.

PLH Staff Party: Pierre Payen, Haiti

By Anita Nott

Earlier this month, my husband, Nick, and I went to visit our kids in Haiti. It was hard to believe that we were actually eating together, playing games, swimming in the pool, picking mangoes, and watching soccer practice in Haiti – with my grandkids! It really was a vacation and gave us a little idea of what life is like for them when they are living in Haiti.

Our oldest daughter is Sara Dessieux who, together with her husband, Guesly, founded Project Living Hope. On this trip, we got to see the dramatic change from last summer when the property was all just farmland. If you have been following the updates, excavation of the property has taken place so it was a huge contrast from my last visit.

Laura, the Administrative Assistant for PLH, is our youngest daughter, and we spent our evenings at the guesthouse where she lives. Just imagine – no AC, ceiling fans only if there is power, cold showers, mosquitos, and 24-hour road noise. But combine that with lively English classes, trips to the open-air markets, strolls along the beach, and meeting amazing people who are committed to helping PLH reach their dream, and the result was an amazing experience.

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To top it all off, we were blessed to join the Project Living Hope staff party. Friday afternoon, we were dropped off at a beach property in Pierre Payen and helped get it all set up. Soon, Laura and Guesly arrived with the guests – eight of the PLH staff members, their families, and a few men who have been volunteering with projects on the land and as soccer referees. Of course, there was soccer! However, seeing adults and children participate in gunny sack races, three-legged races, a water balloon toss, and playing with the parachute brought out the laughter and a bit of friendly competition. The cooks had prepared an ample amount of food with plenty of leftovers to take home. Guesly spoke to the staff, and since I don’t speak Creole, I assume it was a time for him to express his appreciation for all the work they had done these past few months. Leon, the property manager for PLH, closed the evening in prayer.

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PLH Mass Grading Project: Groundbreaking News

GROUNDBREAKING CEREMONY

February 2, 2019 was a monumental day, we broke ground on the Project Living Hope property and began the mass grading work that is needed for construction of the King Center! It’s a huge milestone and it’s only just the beginning!

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Project Living Hope Founder and President Guesly Dessieux, the Dessieux Family, Camp Marie Mayor, Mary Lourdes, the construction team, our Haitian Staff, and dozens of community members came out early Saturday morning to mark the occasion. This is an exciting new chapter and we are so thankful for all of your prayers and support that made this monumental day possible!

PLH President and Founder Guesly Dessieux standing on the first location to be at finish grade elevation.

PLH President and Founder Guesly Dessieux standing on the first location to be at finish grade elevation.

TIMELINE

We are tackling this project in phases as it is a large under-taking. Below is a rough idea of the project phases:  

MASS GRADING WORK

We are thankful for the volunteers and champions for giving their time, talent, and treasure. Progress has proceeded well so far. We have a committed and focused team with a great vision, and a welcoming community in Haiti. We have consulted with project managers, engineers and construction professionals. There is approximately 88,000 cubic yards of material that needs to be moved.  It has been estimated that it will take two-months to complete the grading and excavation of the site. We have skilled operators from the US working alongside Haitians to complete this project. We have had more than a dozen volunteers commit to the project and it’s been amazing to see God assemble the teams and work out all the many details. We are still recruiting for teams that will be traveling at the end of February and early March. We are specifically looking for people experienced in operating D7 bulldozer, 336 excavator, 966 front loader, roller, and haul truck.  We will also need the leadership of a project manager / site superintendent to manage the work, and a surveyor or grade checker to help make sure the grading work is completed according to plan. The trip costs approximately $1500 per person, which includes airfare, accommodations, food and transportation. All travel arrangements will be taken care of by Project Living Hope. If you cannot afford the cost, but are willing to donate your time, we have some scholarships available. If you are interested in being on a team or supporting a team member, please contact us.  A ton of planning, preparing, organizing and prayer has gone into this project and we are so thankful for everyone that has helped make this possible!

Would you like to give a one-time or monthly gift designated to the building fund?

Project Living Hope Partners with Corban University to Lead a Medical Team to Haiti

By Sarah Comstock

In 2012, our founder, Guesly Dessieux, started a trip for pre-medical students from Corban University to work with a team of physicians and nurses to provide medical care to underserved people in Haiti.  The following year, I was asked to join the leadership team for the Corban trip. In case you were not aware, Guesly is a physician in Stayton, OR and I am a professor in the Science department at Corban University.  The purpose of this trip is to serve the medical needs of the Haitian people while also providing pre-med students a glimpse of the unique nature of healthcare in the developing world.  This trip makes a significant impact on Corban University students; they come back with a renewed drive to serve others through medicine.  In fact, because of this trip, Corban University now offers a scholarship in Guesly’s name – the Dessieux Scholarship – for students seeking to use a career in healthcare to serve others through missions.

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This May, Guesly and I helped lead a team of 15 students and 15 medical professionals to serve on the 7th annual Corban University medical mission trip.  We partnered with a new organization, Nehemiah Vision Ministries, to provide outreach in three villages in rural Haiti as well as with our Oregonian friend Aslan Noakes and her organization, Empower Haiti Together, to help develop a hypertension management program in two other communities. We saw over 400 patients and developed relationships with many other like-minded people working to empower the Haitian people.  While Project Living Hope does not focus on medical ministry, we are committed to using our talents to empower the Haitian people and we seek to partner with other organizations that are working to do the same.  We are excited about the partnerships with these two organizations and look forward to collaborating more with them in the future.

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While we were in country, we also got to work with our Project Living Hope in-country employees and take care of important logistics.  We met with our architect, Andrew Ripp from MSAADA Architects, to sign contracts and to discuss our vision for our project as well as our ministry.  Then, later in the week, Andy came out and toured the property. We are excited to be working with Andy and MSAADA. Their mission is to “provide professional architectural and engineering services in the planning, design and implementation of building projects for organizations dedicated to serving others.” Specifically, they seek to partner with organizations in developing countries who serve the Worldwide Church.  In addition, we met with another nearby organization, Extollo International, that works to educate Haitians in the construction industry, “equipping them to build/rebuild their communities, reduce unemployment, stimulate the local economy and improve their quality of life.” We will be partnering with Extollo to train construction workers from Camp Marie and contracting with them to help begin building on Phase One.  The contracts are signed, so be on the lookout for updates about building in the next few months!

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Another important meeting to note was that we also got to see the mayor, Marie Lourdes.  We are so impressed with the way she is advocating for Project Living Hope and the community of Camp Marie.  As we met, she showed us a letter she had written to the local government officials asking for their support as we develop in this new community.  She wrote about the opportunities that our partnership with Camp Marie will develop and how their support will help further this relationship and create jobs for the community.  We ask you to be in prayer that this letter will be well received and that God will continue to guide us to future partnerships that will help us continue His Kingdom Work.

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Breaking News: Road Construction is Underway

By Sarah Comstock

The King Center property that Project Living Hope purchased last Fall is located just a half-mile from Route 1. For all intents and purposes, this is the only passable road between the Northern city of Cap-Haitian and the capital, Port-au-prince.  This makes the location ideally situated. The ease of access it has to many major cities will, in the unfortunate event of a disaster, mean we are in the best place to make the greatest difference.

When we bought the land, we made an agreement with the farmers and the City that they would carve out a wider, more drivable road between Route 1 and our property.

Until this week, there was a just a small footpath leading off the dirt road through the town of Camp Marie to our property. But this week, they started road construction!

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Through her government connections, the mayor of Camp Marie, Marie Lourdes, made arrangements to get the necessary equipment, and the community members worked together to make this possible. We are excited for this new development because we have a construction team heading down in August.  We will now be able to get vehicles, large equipment and constructions supplies to our property more efficiently.

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If you’ve been with us to Haiti, talked to a PLH board or staff member, read previous blog posts, or been to a fundraising event, we hope you see we are taking a different approach to the ministry of poverty alleviation.  Where many, well-intentioned organizations fail is that their donations and assistance create a cycle of dependency that keeps the people they are serving coming back for more. There is a time and place for relief aid that provides for the immediate needs of the people we are working with.  In the case of a natural disaster or a similar crisis, relief is the right help. To really be successful, however, we must move into a partnership role with the people we are serving.

We must focus our efforts on long-term development, rather than immediate relief. Which is why we are partnering with the community members to work together on this project.

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They are starting excavation on the road, then we hope to bring in professionals that can train them to build drainage and pave the road. Without their involvement, the King Center will only ever be Project Living Hope’s project.  But with their efforts, this will be Camp Marie’s project. We are taking the time to build relationships, get to know the strengths and weaknesses of the community members, and work with them to accomplish the goals that are best for them.  We are joining their community!

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As progress continues to move forward, we have new needs and prayer request that we are hoping you, our Champions, can help us with:

  • We have a construction team going down in August but are still looking for a few more team members.  Do you have experience or know of someone who has experience in construction, operating heavy equipment or training others to do so? Our plan for August is to clear a portion of the land that we plan to build on and to start putting up fencing on our property. We would love your help with this.  We have a second construction trip scheduled for the first week in December. If August is too soon for you but you would still like to help, consider signing up to go in December. Learn more here.

  • Although the road is starting to take shape, we will need some help making it better. We need to set up a drainage system to make sure that the road stays as dry as possible during the rainy season and we are also considering paving it or adding gravel.  Your prayers and support in this regard would be helpful. Do you have skills in this area or do you know of an individual or a company who might be interested in helping us with the road? Email us.

  • Finally, please pray for the community leaders, including the mayor Marie Lourdes. Pierre Descieux, our Director of Operations in Haiti, has been in regular communication with Mrs. Lourdes and other community members.  Pray that these relationships will continue to flourish as we work together.

January Mission Experience: Empowering Haitians through Education

By Sara Dessieux

Last month, during our trip to Haiti, I found myself once again in front of a group of Haitian students teaching them English. Besides a couple hours last spring, I haven’t done that for more than twelve years but I was thrilled to be back at it.  I know firsthand that when we help Haitians learn English, we are giving them an opportunity to be empowered.

I taught English in Haiti for two years some years back and I was blessed to see so many fruits from our efforts in that school.  Our students went on to get jobs and to help their country. I had one student named Thonny Fabien that we actually just got to spend the week with because he is now Project Living Hope’s Operations Manager!  I get excited to think what may come from teaching English in this new community we’re in.

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PLH’s vice president, Sarah Comstock, recruited her mother, Julie Williams, to join us in teaching English and she was a marvelous addition to the team.  Julie has lots of experience teaching English, including eight years in Portugal. She knew just what to do with the students we had who are at the very beginning of their English language journeys.  Each afternoon we taught students in Camp Marie. We met for class in a school being constructed at the local church. Students found out about it via word-of-mouth from friends and each day we had more students come.  We had invited a third-year interpretation student, Gerald, to join us us for the week. He interpreted for Julie, assisted with her classes and saw how she makes her classes engaging and successful.

On the second day, we split the students into two classes.  I took the more advanced, but still beginning, students while Julie and Gerald stayed with the rest of the students. I enjoyed seeing how much English my students had already acquired and how eager they are to keep learning.  My sister, Laura, who has two years of experience teaching English in South Korea joined me in teaching partway through the week. After four days of class, the students were eager to know what the plan was going forward. I was SO glad we did have a plan.  It would have done little good to teach them for only one week and then tell them, well, someday we’ll come back and do some more. Instead, Guesly paid a visit to our classes and explained to them that Gerald would be returning to teach them after we left! They were so grateful to hear that.

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We have since learned that even more students showed up the following week, willing to pay the small tuition fee we set for a chance to learn English from a qualified instructor.  Before leaving the students, we also told them that more teams would be coming and that we’d arrange for them to visit their classes and practice with them. We are still learning about this community and the possibilities it holds, and considering what kinds of training we may want to offer there, but English will definitely be among them.

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